ISRAEL MUSIC FESTIVAL: Beersheba Conservatory, October 6
Condensing the years-long Jewish exile, symbolized by the legendary river Sambatyon, into a 30-minute composition is an ambitious and courageous undertaking.
By URY EPPSTEIN
The premiere of a new Israeli work, Max Stern’s Symphony Beyond the Sambatyon, was performed by the Sinfonietta Beersheba, conducted by Eran Reemy, as part of the Israel Music Festival.Condensing the years-long Jewish exile, symbolized by the legendary river Sambatyon, into a 30-minute composition is an ambitious and courageous undertaking. Stern achieved it with remarkable originality and force of conviction.The symphony’s first movement, Exile, sounds appropriately mournful and depressive, though mercifully abstaining from sentimentality.In its mood, though naturally not in its musical style, it is reminiscent of Verdi’s Slave Chorus in his opera Nabucco, gaining in exciting intensity as the piece goes on. Its melodic theme is based on traditional synagogal prayer chant, piyut, not harmonized but treated in a more suitable polyphonic style, expressing profound grief and despair. The middle movement, Penitence, expresses the pain of repentance and supplication via dissonant sound combinations.The exuberant joy of the final movement, Return, is finally modified by a meditative conclusion, suggesting that perhaps it may all be a matter of mere wishful thinking.Hopefully, the work will be performed also in regular concert programs, as it deserves, and not only in a festival event.A short curtain raiser was Alex Wasserman’s Arabesque for strings, the tempo of which radiated restlessness and nervosity.AdvertisementThe concluding Israeli songs were performed by Yaniv d’Or, unfortunately in this small hall through unnecessary electronic amplification that effectively distorted his presumably appealing voice.
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